Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Perfect Exhibit

Here's an exhibit that just seems perfect in so many ways. Thanks to Design Observer, I found Bye, Bye Blackboard, a 2005 exhibit at the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford. What makes it perfect?

It takes one of the museum's most treasured artifacts--a blackboard written on by Albert Einstein and makes it the center of an engaging exhibit. What makes it engaging?

A bit of metaphor--blackboards, like ideas, and many exhibits, are ephemeral, so we appreciate them while they last. An exhibit framed around one of the most transitory methods of writing makes for a surprising experience.

Some thinking outside the box--the museum asked others to write on blackboards the same size as the one Einstein wrote on. Chefs, authors, musicians, cartoonists, politicians--all shared their blackboard view. A little dash of celebrity certainly didn't hurt.

Fun programming to accompany the exhibit--a talk and chalk series with scientists (and a temporary end to power points!), and a Family Fun Day, "Understanding Einstein," which including a contest for best blackboard explanation of Einstein. And those winners are posted online.

Connecting to a bigger cause--A chance to have your blackboard on display for a week in the exhibit was offered in the Oxford Promise benefit auction, with proceeds to benefit charities working with homeless people in Oxford.

Looking great--sometimes simple is better. These blackboards all looked wonderful and in some ways, far more interesting than the ever-present computer screens in all of our lives.

Top to Botton:
Einstein's blackboard
Blackboard by cartoonist Chris Heath
Winners in the Understanding Einstein blackboard competition

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